On a bitterly cold and windy February afternoon, a great man was laid to rest in the Koosharem Cemetery. It was with great respect and gratitude that Harold Brown American Legion Post 92 presented the last honors to one of its last remaining World War II veterans, Dee Hatch.
Dee served his country in the Pacific campaign. He was a corporal in the U.S. Army. During his service he was a forward observer, which would bring him close enough to the enemy that he could hear the U.S. artillery shells overhead. On one of his missions in February 1945, Dee hunted for artillery targets as the Japanese bombarded his position with machine gun and mortar fire. During this skirmish, he was a key player to help direct the U.S. military firepower in gaining control of the Philippines. He was given a paper at that time which said he was awarded a Bronze Star, but he didn’t receive that honor until 62 years later when then-Sen. Bob Bennett presented the medal to Dee and his beloved wife, Berneal, at their home in Loa. “We are indebted to the veterans of this country for their bravery and heroism. Dee Hatch’s bravery is symbolized by this medal. He is certainly deserving of this distinguished honor”, said Sen. Bennett. “It was a privilege for me to help see that one of Utah’s finest veterans receives appropriate recognition.” Dee described this recognition as “overwhelming, and that he still honors the flag and country for which he served as a soldier.” Dee always said that he would do it again if I had to, but I don’t think I would last as long. Dee displayed his Bronze Star with the Filipino knife and Japanese dog tags he brought back with him from the war in his Loa home.
Dee was also on one of the first Honor Flights. The Honor Flight's mission is to enable veterans to visit Washington, D.C., and the war memorials that were built in their honor, with respect and gratitude to their service and sacrifice for our country. So, on Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2013, Dee and his family, along with Adus Dorsey, flew back to Washington and were given the VIP treatment. Their day would begin at 4:45 am and would end at 11 pm. Adus stated, “It was a truly amazing experience. We went everywhere, we saw places some people will never see. It was an experience I will never forget.” Dee visited many memorials on this trip.
Dee’s advice to all of us left behind? “Love and live every moment you can with your young families. Go on picnics, dances, programs and teach them good stories, games and music. Live every beautiful moment you can with them because times go by so fast and opportunities are lost that you can’t bring back. Teach them to honor their parents and loved ones who deserve respect.”
Dee was a legend among the folks of Wayne County and loved by so many of us. God’s speed my friend…
He was 103.